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'The quality that we call beauty, ... must always grow from the realities of life... to guide shadows towards beauty’s ends.'
- Junichiro Tanazaki, In Praise of Shadow
The design approach to this residential conversion and refurbishment project was developed in response to a single critical issue: light.
This 1970s terrace house has ample rooms spread across three floors, and has a rear garden that opens onto a communal green space. However, a street facing garage on the ground level takes up almost all of the south facing frontage. A legal covenant over the property also forbids any alteration to the roller shuttered appearance of the southern facade. As such, the main living/dining space at the ground floor of the house was a series of small and dimly lit rooms with poor visual connection to the charming garden and communal green beyond. The challenge was clear, how do you bring light and delight into a deep north-facing plan?
A set of intuitive design moves were first deployed: all internal partitions were removed to create a single large open plan kitchen/dining/living area; a large glazed sliding door occupying almost the full width of the house was installed to maximise daylight and sunlight gain on the northern aspect of the ground floor.
However, taking inspiration from Junichiro Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows, the project also celebrates the lowered ambient daylight conditions. The shadows are treated as a virtue, against which a darker and richer material palette can slowly transition towards new sources of light, within an open plan spatial arrangement. A dark oiled American Walnut veneered plywood was used to form a variety of joinery elements, from kitchen drawer fronts to full height wall claddings. The rich grains and deep tones of the walnut are then complemented by the minimal purity of the white countertop, bench, and table. In another nod to the clients' love of Japanese interiors, bespoke handles and kitchen splash back were made in brushed brass, which glistens in shades of gold against the lower general daylight in the deepest part of the room, and contrasts against the darker tone of the walnut. Combining the poetic with the practical, a combination of wall lights, track lights, pendant lights and concealed counter lights are then installed to offer a variety of artificial lighting conditions for additive general ambient lighting and specific task lighting in the kitchen area.
Photography by French + Tye
Location: Wandsworth, London
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